Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America

By: Steve Sheinkin

Illustrator: Bijou Karman

Just nine years after American women finally got the right to vote, a group of trailblazers soared to new heights in the 1929 Air Derby, the first official women-only air race across the US. Follow the incredible lives of legend Amelia Earhart, who has captivated generations of young women; Marvel Crosson, who built a plane with her own hands before she even learned how to fly; Louise Thaden, who bravely shattered jaw-dropping altitude records; and Elinor Smith, who made headlines at age seventeen when she flew under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Source notes. Works cited. Index. Black-and-white illustrations and photographs.

ISBN: 9781626721302

JLG Release: Dec 2019


Sensitive Areas: None
Topics: Powder Puff Derby (1929 Women’s Air Derby) , History of US women air pilots , History of US airplane racing , Aviation , Female aviators

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Kirkus Reviews, Booklist*, The Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal*, Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

Using a collected biographical approach, Sheinkin presents the history of early American aviation and the changing role of women in society, culminating in the Women’s Air Derby of 1929. Women made up a small percentage of pilots in the 1920s, and societal norms prevented them from competing in air races until the 1929 derby. The 20 women who par Using a collected biographical approach, Sheinkin presents the history of early American aviation and the changing role of women in society, culminating in the Women’s Air Derby of 1929. Women made up a small percentage of pilots in the 1920s, and societal norms prevented them from competing in air races until the 1929 derby. The 20 women who participated in the derby came from all walks of life. Most Americans recognize the name Amelia Earhart, but Sheinkin introduces many other female pilots, including Marvel Crosson, Ruth Elder, Bobbi Trout, and Pancho Barnes, who all took part in the daring and fearless days of flight in its infancy. Flight races were particularly intense for spectators and participants alike as the inherent danger usually meant that at least one pilot died per race. While women received the right to vote in 1920, the facade of female frailty was still a widely held belief in 1929 and used to justify protesting the all-female air derby that stretched from Santa Monica, CA, to Cleveland. The question of sabotage, engineering design flaws, and interpersonal relationships made an inherently difficult undertaking exponentially more dangerous for all the pilots in the 1929 derby. Sheinkin’s thorough research and attention to detail make the era come alive for readers. Fans of Keith O’Brien’s Fly Girls will greatly enjoy this book. Highly recommended for all middle school libraries.

Horn Book

“There were about nine thousand licensed pilots in the United States in 1929. Fewer than one hundred of them were women. Of those, twenty of the best entered the Women’s Air Derby.” Ace historian Sheinkin (four-time Boston Globe–Horn Book awardee, for The Notorious Benedict Arnold, rev. 1/11; The Port Chicago 50, rev. 3/14; “There were about nine thousand licensed pilots in the United States in 1929. Fewer than one hundred of them were women. Of those, twenty of the best entered the Women’s Air Derby.” Ace historian Sheinkin (four-time Boston Globe–Horn Book awardee, for The Notorious Benedict Arnold, rev. 1/11; The Port Chicago 50, rev. 3/14; Most Dangerous, rev. 9/15; and Undefeated, rev. 3/17) turns to the subject of American women pilots in the early days of aviation, using as his organizing principle the first women’s cross-country air race. Early chapters introduce the individual contenders—Louise Thaden, Marvel Crosson, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, “Pancho” Barnes, Bobbi Trout, and more (as Sheinkin notes, all were white). The book then chronicles, in detail and in dramatic fash-ion, each of the eight days of the derby, beginning in Santa Monica and ending in Cleveland. The text describes the obstacles faced by the women, from primitive navigation aids, poor field conditions, excessive heat, and lack of sleep to probable sabotage and, of course, constant sexism. Said one reporter to his colleagues: “I don’t care what you guys write about their bravery, their skill, their sportsman-ship...What I’m going to say is, them women don’t look good in pants.” The rac-ers were dubbed “Derbyettes” and “Sweethearts of the Air”; Earhart said, “We are still trying to get ourselves called just ‘pilots.’” The tone throughout is lively and engaging, incorporating lots of dialogue as well as Sheinkin’s own conversational voice (about a 1920s biplane: “The whole thing was made of lightweight wood. Seriously, wood”). Although the dizzying number of individuals and personali-ties is challenging to keep straight, the narrative gist comes through clearly: these pilots’ passion for flying and dedication to women’s aviation. “They started by jumping off roofs. They wound up kicking down doors—for themselves, and everyone else.” Appended with impeccable back matter, including meticulous source notes, a lengthy bibliography, and an index (unseen).

Book Details

ISBN

9781626721302

First Release

December 2019

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

797.5

Trim Size

9" x 6"

Page Count

288

Accelerated Reader

Level 0; Points: 0;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 0; Points: 0;

Lexile

Level

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Roaring Brook

Potentially Sensitive Areas

None

Topics

Powder Puff Derby (1929 Women’s Air Derby), History of US women air pilots, History of US airplane racing, Aviation, Female aviators,

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